Have you ever been to a clinic or hospital and noticed all the codes and paperwork, while you pay?

Ever wondered who keeps everything organized? That’s where medical coders come in.

Medical coders make sure all the records are accurate and in order.

This article explains what they do, like assigning codes for diagnoses and treatments and making sure everything follows the rules.

So let’s get right into it.

What Do Medical Coders Do?

Medical coders play an essential role in the healthcare industry by translating medical diagnoses, procedures, treatments, and services into universal alphanumeric codes.

These codes are used for various purposes, including billing, insurance claims, statistical analysis, and research.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of their duties:

1. Assigning Codes: Medical coders review patient medical records, including notes from doctors, lab results, and other documentation, to accurately assign alphanumeric codes to each diagnosis, procedure, treatment, and service provided during a patient’s encounter with a healthcare provider.

2. ICD and CPT Coding: They use standardized code sets such as the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) and Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) to assign appropriate codes. ICD codes classify diseases, injuries, and other health conditions, while CPT codes describe medical, surgical, and diagnostic services.

3. Accuracy and Compliance: Medical coders ensure that the assigned codes accurately reflect the diagnoses, treatments, and procedures documented in the patient’s medical record. They also adhere to coding guidelines, regulations, and compliance standards set forth by government agencies, such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

4. Data Quality: By accurately coding medical information, coders contribute to the integrity and quality of healthcare data. This data is used for healthcare analytics, population health management, reimbursement purposes, and public health research.

5. Reviewing Claims: Medical coders may review medical claims submitted by healthcare providers to insurance companies or government payers. They ensure that the claims contain accurate coding and supporting documentation to facilitate timely and appropriate reimbursement.

6. Communication: Coders often collaborate with healthcare providers, clinical documentation specialists, and billing staff to clarify documentation and resolve coding-related issues. Effective communication is essential to ensure accurate coding and billing processes.

What Does a Day in the Life of a Medical Coder Look Like?

Now that we’ve talked about the duties of a Medical Coder, you might be wondering what a day in the life of one might look like.

Let us help you with that.

Let’s imagine you’re shadowing Sarah, a seasoned medical coder, as she navigates through her daily tasks:

Morning Routine:

Sarah starts her day by checking her emails and any updates on coding guidelines or regulations that may have been released overnight. It’s important to stay informed about any changes that could impact her work.

Reviewing Patient Records:

Next, Sarah dives into reviewing patient records. She carefully reads through the documentation provided by healthcare providers, including physician notes, lab results, and diagnostic reports. She pays close attention to detail, making sure she captures all relevant information for accurate coding.

Assigning Codes:

As Sarah reads through each patient encounter, she begins assigning alphanumeric codes to diagnoses, treatments, and procedures using standardized code sets like ICD (International Classification of Diseases) and CPT (Current Procedural Terminology). She uses her expertise and knowledge of coding guidelines to ensure the codes accurately reflect the patient’s condition and the services provided.

Clarifying Documentation:

Sometimes, Sarah encounters unclear or incomplete documentation. In such cases, she reaches out to healthcare providers for clarification. Effective communication is key in resolving any discrepancies to ensure accurate coding and billing.

Reviewing Claims:

In the afternoon, Sarah shifts her focus to reviewing medical claims. She carefully examines each claim submitted by healthcare providers to ensure they contain accurate coding and supporting documentation. This step is crucial for facilitating timely and appropriate reimbursement from insurance companies or government payers.

Wrapping Up:

As the workday comes to a close, Sarah finishes up any remaining tasks and prepares for tomorrow. She double-checks her work to ensure accuracy and completeness before logging off for the day.

Skills Required to Become a Medical Coder

As in any other profession, Medical Coders need to have a certain skill set that is required to handle the everyday responsibilities in their job role.

Let’s take a look at the skills required to become a successful medical coder:

Attention to Detail:

Imagine you’re putting together a puzzle where each piece is an essential part of the bigger picture. That’s what it’s like for a medical coder—they review patient records, ensuring every detail is accurately captured in the assigned codes. One small oversight could have big consequences, so attention to detail is a must-have skill.

Analytical Skills:

Think of medical coding as solving a series of puzzles. Coders must analyze complex medical documentation, interpret diagnoses and treatments, and translate them into the appropriate alphanumeric codes.

Knowledge of Coding Guidelines:

Medical coders need to know the rules and guidelines for assigning codes. They must stay up-to-date on coding standards set forth by organizations like the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) or the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). Understanding these guidelines ensures accuracy and compliance in coding practices.

Communication Skills:

Imagine you’re a bridge between healthcare providers and insurance companies. Coders often need to communicate with physicians or other healthcare professionals to clarify documentation or resolve coding-related issues. Clear and effective communication is essential for accurate coding and billing processes.

Computer Proficiency:

In today’s digital age, medical coders work extensively with electronic health record (EHR) systems and coding software. They must be comfortable navigating these platforms efficiently and accurately inputting codes. It’s like being a wizard with technology, using it to streamline the coding process and enhance productivity.

Types of Settings That Hire Medical Coders

This is a common question that is seen among aspiring medical coders: where exactly can they work? Who hires medical coders?

Let us answer that for you. Here are the different settings where you may find medical coders working:

1. Hospitals: Medical coders here deal with a wide range of medical services and procedures, working in specialized departments like emergency medicine or surgery.

2. Physician Offices: Coders assign codes for patient visits, procedures, and treatments in doctor’s offices, offering a more personalized work environment.

3. Clinics and Outpatient Facilities: Coders here handle codes for outpatient services such as tests, imaging, and minor surgeries, ensuring accurate billing.

4. Insurance Companies: Coders review medical claims, ensuring they’re coded correctly and processing them efficiently.

5. Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care Facilities: Coders here assign codes for resident care services, maintaining accurate records for billing.

6. Remote and Freelance Work: Some coders work from home or as freelancers, enjoying flexible schedules while contributing their skills to healthcare.


In conclusion, medical coders play an important role in the healthcare system by translating complex medical information into universal codes. They ensure accurate billing, maintain patient records, and help healthcare providers deliver quality care. With their attention to detail and knowledge of coding guidelines, medical coders are essential in ensuring the efficiency and accuracy of healthcare operations.

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About the Author
Grant founded OnlineDegree.com with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.